Chick-fil-A, the First Amendment, and the drawing out of a public relations firestorm

Since Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s comments on same-sex marriage one week ago, folks on both sides of the debate have been speaking out. Opinion leaders have publicly shown their support for the fast-food chain, like former Arkansas governor and current talk show host Mike Huckabee, who is orchestrating a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Opinion leaders have publicly denounced the fast-food chain, like the Henson Company, which announced its Muppets characters would no longer be tied to Chick-fil-A promotions. As I wrote last Thursday, choosing a side on a hot-button issue is not going to come without repercussions. From a purely business perspective, the hard-line stance could only harm Chick-fil-A’s bottom line by offending some and turning a trip to the drive-thru into a moral dilemma.

[RELATED: Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments]

But in recent days, Chick-fil-A has received some unexpected help in its public relations quagmire from an opposition that has lost its mind and its constitutional principles.

Continue reading “Chick-fil-A, the First Amendment, and the drawing out of a public relations firestorm”

Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments

I cut sheets of black paper into indiscernible blobs, taping them on the canvas of an old white t-shirt. It could have passed for a Rorschach Test until I went in search of a bovine mask and a bell to bind around my neck.

I dressed up as a cow last week for a chicken sandwich combo meal. What would you do for free food?

Courtesy Chick-fil-A.

Cow Appreciation Day is just part of Chick-fil-A’s charm. The fast food restaurant feels like anything but. The dining rooms are clean, the service is done with “pleasure,” and chances are, you’re going to get a free taste of something if you stick around long enough.

Of course, if you don’t have a stack of readily available coupons, Chick-fil-A ain’t exactly the value menu. It’s pricey fast food, but its customers gladly pay the premium in exchange for the culture.

The Chick-fil-A culture is closely intertwined with the Christian faith. Its founder, S. Truett Cathy, is a publicly professing Christian and through the success of his restaurant chain began a number of Christian missions under the umbrella of the WinShape Foundation. It’s not uncommon to hear Christian music playing in the restaurants and, perhaps most famously, you can’t go to Chick-fil-A after church – they are closed on Sundays.

It’s something Evangelicals can appreciate – no wonder the chain does so well in the Bible Belt – but the friendly service and philanthropic endeavors are enough to appeal to people of most any ethic. Everybody appreciates an upstanding company with strong ties to community. Christians and non-Christians alike can get behind eating more “chikin.”

But lately, the restaurant chain’s leadership has been vocal about a divisive religious issue with political connotations. Namely, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has publicly decried same-sex marriage, most recently in a radio interview on the Ken Coleman Show:

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

Continue reading “Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments”

[Clickworthy] Before you send out your press release, remove the part about manipulating your audience

Who says newsrooms ignore press releases? Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun couldn’t help but notice the latest memo from Nevada Democratic congressional candidate Kate Marshall, which didn’t stop at declaring her support for Israel in the wake of recent violence in Gaza. The political strategy behind the statement was inadvertently included as the final paragraph of the release, subtitled “background.”

Israel has been in the news lately, and will be even more in the news with Beck’s ‘Rally to Restore Courage’ in Jerusalem. In an R district, it will be useful to express support for Israel and demonstrate some foreign policy prowess while it is a timely topic – especially for people who are likely paying attention to Beck’s event.

Of course, the whole idea of any press release is to execute a particular strategy – to respond to threats or, in Marshall’s case, take advantage of opportunities. The public knows, to a certain extent, that they are being played, but that doesn’t mean they will respond well to seeing it out there at face value. Conservative blog Human Events deemed the release “The Kate Marshall Campaign Suicide Note.”

It will be interesting to see how Marshall’s campaign chooses to respond to the gaffe. I found nothing on her campaign website – not even the original release with the strategical information removed. Will silence be the tactic, or will she face media scrutiny head on? We will try to follow up here.

 

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